Pinterest Stumbleupon Whatsapp
Ads by Google

Network security. Doesn’t exactly make you picture beautiful software, does it? That’s about to change.

Maybe you’re looking for a way to track your Internet usage and the applications that access the network. Maybe you have a habit of absentmindedly dismissing firewall alerts. Maybe you’d like a way to clue into sneaky malware 10 Steps To Take When You Discover Malware On Your Computer 10 Steps To Take When You Discover Malware On Your Computer We would like to think that the Internet is a safe place to spend our time (cough), but we all know there are risks around every corner. Email, social media, malicious websites that have worked... Read More  that your anti-virus might not know about yet, or applications that mishandle your data or compromise your privacy Three Desktop Browsers Designed To Protect Your Privacy Three Desktop Browsers Designed To Protect Your Privacy Read More .

If any of these is a concern for you, you’re in luck, because today I invite you to meet the prettiest little Internet/network security app you ever did see. It’s called GlassWire, and you can install it to your Windows PCI’ll also give a quick rundown of four less-pretty but open-source/cross-platform options.

glasswire-logo

Here’s a quick introduction from the creators of GlassWire (launched August 21 this year):

GlassWire displays your network activity on an easy to understand graph while searching for unusual Internet behavior that could indicate malware or violations of your privacy. Once unusual network activity is discovered you’re instantly alerted with detailed information so you can protect your computer, privacy, and data.

Ads by Google

The default view of GlassWire graphs your computers uploading and downloading activity. You can see it on a variety of scales from the last few minutes to trends from the past week.

glasswire

The icon bubbles mark significant events, and you can click on them for more details. For a more detailed view of how apps are using your bandwidth and the hosts you are connecting to, you can refer to the Usage tab.

glasswire-usage

The Firewall tab allows you to manage your built-in Windows firewall Windows 7 Firewall: How It Compares Against Other Firewalls Windows 7 Firewall: How It Compares Against Other Firewalls Windows 7 contains an unobtrusive, easy-to-use firewall that protects your computer from inbound traffic. If you're looking for more advanced options, such as the ability to control outbound traffic or view the applications using your... Read More . The Alerts tab shows you a history of your GlassWire alerts by date, app, and type of alert.

Ways GlassWire Can Help

What kinds of events can GlassWire track and help you understand, you ask?

glasswire-security-settings

Monitor Changes to Applications & System Files

GlassWire can display a notification the first time an application accesses the network. It will also notify you if an application ever initiates a connection to a suspicious host. GlassWire also has an Application Info Monitor that can tell you if a version, publisher, certificate, or executable of an application has changed.

If you use your Hosts file to block websites on your PC without using software How To Block Websites On Your PC Without Using Software [Windows] How To Block Websites On Your PC Without Using Software [Windows] Any website you visit potentially tracks your browsing habits, loads annoying ads, or distributes malicious software. Most of the time, common sense and standard malware protection software can help you steer clear of the worst... Read More , you will want to know if that file ever got changed without you initiating it. That’s why GlassWire will leave a notification for you if system files like the ‘hosts’ file or ‘lmhosts’ file 6 Surprising Uses for the Windows Hosts File 6 Surprising Uses for the Windows Hosts File The Windows Hosts file allows you to define which domain names (websites) are linked to which IP addresses. It takes precedence over your DNS servers, so your DNS servers may say facebook.com is linked to... Read More  are modified, too.

Monitor Bandwidth

You can also use GlassWire to learn how much bandwidth you’re using Find Out Who's Eating Your Bandwidth With These Tips Find Out Who's Eating Your Bandwidth With These Tips Click....wait. Click....wait. Click....ARG! Does that seem familiar? It's you when you run out of Internet bandwidth! Let's find out what occupies your Internet connection and how to get it back. Read More , and how much data you upload or download. If you’d like a warning of when you go over a certain amount of bandwidth over a period of time, you can set that up under GlassWire’s Settings > Security > Bandwidth Overage Monitor.

Monitor Network & Internet Access

GlassWire can tell you when network devices or drivers are added, removed, or changed. It can notify you of changes to your proxy settings, or your DNS server settings. It can also tell you if your MAC (media access control) address What Is a MAC Address & Can It Be Used To Secure Your Home Network? [MakeUseOf Explains] What Is a MAC Address & Can It Be Used To Secure Your Home Network? [MakeUseOf Explains] Network structure and management have their own lingo. Some of the terms thrown around will likely already sound familiar to you. Ethernet and Wi-Fi are largely self-obvious concepts, although it may require a little bit... Read More associated with your IP address is changed, protecting you from an ARP spoofing attack. Put simply, an ARP spoofing attack is a type of Internet security threat The Latest Internet Security Threats That You Should Be Aware Of The Latest Internet Security Threats That You Should Be Aware Of Security threats have increasingly come from new directions and that isn’t looking set to change in 2013. There are new risks you should be aware of, exploits of popular applications, increasingly sophisticated phishing attacks, malware,... Read More where a malicious user may pretend their MAC address is someone else’s, allowing that malicious user to access networks or information that they should not, by pretending to be an authorized device.

Personally I really like GlassWire’s Internet Access Monitor because it shows a little notification in the corner of my screen any time my Internet disconnects or reconnects.

glasswire-internet-connection-lost

It removes the frustrating experience of clicking on a link and waiting for a page to load, noticing it’s taking longer than usual, and then mousing over to my system tray to discover I’m not connected.

If you want to know about what your computer is doing while idle, GlassWire also has an option to show you a summary of significant network activity that happened “While you were away”.

glasswire-while-you-were-away

Strange Things To Look For

It’s not possible to tell you exactly what your data should look like on GlassWire, because every person uses their computer a little differently. Also, some devices like servers for example may have really different network usage than regular desktops. The key is to wait until you establish a baseline of what your data looks like during normal activities and then pay attention to deviations from it. You may want to pay attention to what your usage looks like while you torrent Beat the Bloat! Try These Lightweight BitTorrent Clients Beat the Bloat! Try These Lightweight BitTorrent Clients Guns don’t share illegal files. People share illegal files. Or, wait, how does it go again? What I mean to say is, BitTorrent shouldn't be dissed based on its potential for piracy. Read More files, or upload videos to YouTube or Dropbox, or edit your website, compared to typical Internet surfing.

Looking out for unusual activity and alerts with GlassWire can help you detect the presence of malicious software that may be so new it is unknown to virus scanners. For example, when one GlassWire user noticed high uploading and downloading, and a series of GlassWire alerts, he was prompted to investigate.

It turned out he had malware that was trying to change proxy settings every few minutes. If you find a file like this or another virus, you can upload it to VirusTotal VirusTotal Uploader: Scan Files for Viruses Online From Your Desktop VirusTotal Uploader: Scan Files for Viruses Online From Your Desktop Read More for tracking across a variety of virus scanners.

Other Nifty Features

Want to look at GlassWire’s graphs more closely? There’s a handy ‘Pause’ button and even a little camera ‘Snapshot’ button that appears when you hover your mouse over the graph.

glasswire-snapshot

Not a fan of the colours? You’ll find a few different skins under Settings.

glasswire-skins

GlassWire’s Alternatives

GlassWire is closed-source, and Windows-only for the time being. They promise a version will always be free, but they plan to release a premium version with additional features. 

One feature GlassWire lacks is the ability to tell you about the other devices that may be using up your bandwidth. GlassWire will only let you see the usage of a single computer (though it can be set up to monitor a computer or server remotely). So, to learn about the devices that share your bandwidth, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

One app that monitors your network and bandwidth Monitor Your Network and Watch Your Bandwidth With NetworkMiner Monitor Your Network and Watch Your Bandwidth With NetworkMiner When your Internet connection slows down to slow motion, it's not always the ISP's fault. The culprit could be in your house! Let's see how you can identify it. Read More  across all devices accessing it is called NetworkMiner, shown below. 

network-miner1

If you need an open-source, portable app How Portable Apps Can Make Your Life Easier & Save Resources How Portable Apps Can Make Your Life Easier & Save Resources If you frequently switch computers and have cloud storage space or USB drives to spare, here's an idea: outsource your applications. Read More , we reviewed three network analysis and diagnostic options you can try Top 3 Portable Network Analysis and Diagnostics Tools Top 3 Portable Network Analysis and Diagnostics Tools Read More .

These include such as Network Stuff (Windows only), Wireshark (Windows, with 3rd party packages available for Mac and various Linux Distros), and Angry IP Scanner. Angry IP Scanner, shown below, is the prettiest of those three (not saying a lot, I know) and the only one officially available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. 

angryip

Staying Up To Date

The people at GlassWire have been keeping track of new releases and bug-fixes on the GlassWire blog. If you encounter a bug of your own, you can report it on their HackerOne profile and even get the credit for spotting it.

It’s normal to look at your results and have questions. GlassWire runs it’s own forum for people to discuss the software, learn more about what it shows you, and find out how to proceed if GlassWire finds something of concern.

Final Thoughts

It can be hard to find software that tells you about your computer’s security status in such a beautiful way as GlassWire, so I want to call attention to the design. GlassWire is an elegant piece of software that offers in-depth information, and doesn’t complicate the visuals Show, Don't Tell! Create Interactive Data Visualization With Tableau Public Show, Don't Tell! Create Interactive Data Visualization With Tableau Public Raw numbers and spreadsheets make you yawn? With Tableau Public, free for Windows & Mac, you can turn .xls or .txt data into meaningful visualizations such as graphs and charts. Read More . That turns data into meaningful information you have a chance to actually appreciate.

Bright, pleasing colours. Soft, rounded corners. Modern typography. Clear hierarchy and organization of features. All of these things make a big difference in our perception of an app, but ‘pretty’ is not something you can say of most Windows software, historically speaking. However, an app that’s easy on the eyes, that reduces the visual noise you see, reduces cognitive load on the brain. That makes it easier to extract the information it presents, making you more likely to use it.

The elements of visual design (which can be learned) How To Learn Principles of Design From Pre-Installed Templates How To Learn Principles of Design From Pre-Installed Templates Read More  matter, even in areas like network security. If an app is ugly, even if it has a pile of useful privacy and security information, you better believe I’ll be looking for a version with a more attractive and clean user interface. I bid the ugly apps goodbye upon finding nicer ones, even if the new ones lack the same level of detail or features.

Wouldn’t you? Comment below if you disagree, or if you know of a different network-monitoring app that’s worth having.

Image Credit: Angry IP Scanner Windows 7/Vista via AngryIP Scanner

  1. Mimi
    January 7, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    Love it! We are on satellite internet with limited bandwidth, and this helps me figure out how to reduce data usage. I found several programs that connect to the internet constantly unbeknownst to me, and some I really don't need at all. Will be interesting to see how this affects our data usage.

  2. HeyRicardo
    October 11, 2014 at 11:23 am

    Not sure about what you say about NetworkMiner, it seems rather a forensic tool for host monitoring, not about traffic/bandwidth measurements.
    Glasswire is fine, thanx for posting about it.

  3. Justin
    October 4, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    The only thing you forgot to mention is that it's an insane resource hog: within just a few days of use, it was already the most memory-intensive software on my entire system (when you total the usage of the service and of the program itself). I have other tracking software (time-tracking software, which records & monitors all program use in great detail) which, after two years of continuous tracking, uses less memory than Glasswire after just one week. So while I agree it's beautiful - to me, this makes it unusable in the long term :(

    • Ganesh
      March 7, 2015 at 8:49 am

      It is indeed a resource hogger. Not only memory its causing severe disk usage spikes which left me no option but uninstall it. Using TinyWall for now.

  4. Russ
    October 4, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    A Linux alternative is KNemo. Works well on my KDE Mint installation.

  5. Jerry
    October 3, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    Best looking program of 2014!

    • Jessica C
      October 4, 2014 at 10:29 pm

      It definitely makes a splash in an area not known for looks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *